MANILA, Philippines – A Maute recruiter was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he was found guilty of rebellion in connection to the war in Marawi City in 2017.
Taguig Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 70 Judge Felix Reyes convicted Nur Supian of terrorism under Republic Act 9732 or the Human Security Act.
Marine Sergeant Johnson Malavega infiltrated a suspected Maute group n July 2017, or two months after war broke out in Marawi, where he met Supian who introduced himself as a leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Malavega was a key witness for the prosecution, who testified in court that Supian had recruited fellow Muslims by telling them the war would not have happened “if Mindanao was given to the Muslims.”
“Supian also said that as their fellow Muslim, they are Mujahideen and they have an obligation to support their beleaguered fellow Mujahedeen in Marawi City,” said the decision promulgated on Tuesday, November 20.
The recruits supposedly retained at Camp Jabal Nur or Tiger Base, a camp that the MNLF denied to the military as theirs. The MNLF also disowned Supian. (READ: Road to Marawi rehab: What caused months of delay?)
Malavega said he attended a July 20, 2017 meeting where Supian told his recruits they will be brought to Marawi “for the test mission.”
Supian was arrested in Zamboanga on July 29, 2017, while he was bringing his recruits to Lanao.
Supian, who is 46 years old and from Jolo, Sulu, said he was at the meeting at the Tiger Base for the peace talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari. He said he was told to bring people to prepare for the peace talks.
Supian said members of the Philippine Marines were present during the July 20 meeting.
The court said that Malavega “clearly and convincingly” testified that he witnessed Supian’s recruitment.
“This a clear act of taking arms against the government of the Republic of the Philippines with the intention of separating Mindanao from the rest of the Philippines in pursuance of an idea of an independent Islamic State and removing allegiance to the government,” said Judge Reyes.
The court said the plain denial of Supian “cannot prevail over the positive identification by prosecution witnesses.”
The court acquitted Marvin Ahmad, Salip Ismael Abdulla and Isa Ukkang.
The three were arrested on August 10 when elements of the Philippine Marines Ready Force-Sulu or PMRF-Sulu conducted an operation at the Tiger Base. There, a gunfight ensued which killed 2 Marines and numerous “rebel personalities.”
The 3 were among those arrested after the gunfight.
Abdulla denied that there was training inside the Tiger Base. Ahmad and Ukkang, both from Sulu, said they only went to the base to attend a wedding which was happening nearby. All 3 said they were awakened by gunfire and merely went out of their houses, where they were arrested.
Malavega told the court he could not recall whether the three were holding firearms when they were arrested. Members of the PMRF-Sulu also told the court they did not see any of the 3 “in the act of actual fighting against the Marines.”
“They also admitted that when the fighting was over, they did not see any of the said accused in actual possession of any firearms,” said the decision.
Judge Reyes ruled that the prosecution’s accusation against the 3 was “highly inconceivable and contrary to human experience.”
“If these three (3) accused were really part of the group who fought against the Marines, they should have been killed or manage to flee,” said Judge Reyes.
Simply, Judge Reyes said the 3 were just “at the wrong place, at the wrong time.” They are now free to go.